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Rule 7.3 Direct Contact with Potential Clients

(a) “Solicitation” or “solicit” denotes a communication initiated by the lawyer that is directed to a specific person and that offers to provide, or can reasonably be understood as offering to provide, legal services.

(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment by live person-to-person contact when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so is the lawyer's or law firm’s pecuniary gain, unless the contact is with a:

(1) lawyer;

(2) person who has a family, close personal, or prior business or professional relationship with the lawyer or law firm; or

(3) person who routinely uses for business purposes the type of legal services offered by the lawyer.

(c) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (a), if:

(1) the target of the solicitation has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer; or

(2) the solicitation involves coercion, duress, or harassment.

(d) This Rule does not prohibit communications authorized by law or ordered by a court or other tribunal.

(e) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in this Rule, a lawyer may participate with a prepaid legal service plan in compliance with 27 N.C. Admin. Code 1E.0301 et seq. that uses live person-to-person contact to enroll members or sell subscriptions for the plan to persons who are not known to need legal services in a particular matter covered by the plan, provided that, after reasonable investigation, the lawyer must have a good faith belief that the plan is being operated in compliance with 27 N.C. Admin. Code 1E.0301 et seq., and the lawyer’s participation in the plan does not otherwise violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.


[1] Paragraph (b) prohibits a lawyer from soliciting professional employment by live person-to-person contact when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s or the law firm’s pecuniary gain. A lawyer's communication is not a solicitation if it is directed to the general public, such as through a billboard, an Internet banner advertisement, a website or a television commercial, or if it is in response to a request for information or is automatically generated in response to electronic searches.

[2] “Live person-to-person contact” means in-person, face-to-face, live telephone and other real-time visual or auditory person-to-person communications, where the person is subject to a direct personal encounter without time for reflection. Such person-to-person contact does not include chat rooms, text messages, or other written communications that recipients may easily disregard. A potential for overreaching exists when a lawyer, seeking pecuniary gain, solicits a person known to be in need of legal services by live person-to-person contact. This form of contact subjects a person to the private importuning of the trained advocate in a direct interpersonal encounter. The person, who may already feel overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult fully to evaluate all available alternatives with reasoned judgment and appropriate self-interest in the face of the lawyer's presence and insistence upon an immediate response. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and over-reaching.

[3] This potential for overreaching inherent in live person-to-person justifies its prohibition, since lawyers have alternative means of conveying necessary information. In particular, communications can be mailed or transmitted by email or other electronic means that do not violate other laws. These forms of communications make it possible for the public to be informed about the need for legal services, and about the qualifications of available lawyers and law firms, without subjecting the public to live person-to-person persuasion that may overwhelm a person's judgment.

[4] The contents of live person-to-person contact can be disputed and may not be subject to third-party scrutiny. Consequently, they are much more likely to approach (and occasionally cross) the dividing line between accurate representations and those that are false and misleading.

[5] There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in overreaching against a former client, or a person with whom the lawyer has a close personal, family, business, or professional relationship, or in situations in which the lawyer is motivated by considerations other than the lawyer's pecuniary gain. Nor is there a serious potential for abuse when the person contacted is a lawyer or is known to routinely use the type of legal services involved for business purposes. Examples include persons who routinely hire outside counsel to represent the entity; entrepreneurs who regularly engage business, employment, or intellectual property lawyers; small business proprietors who routinely hire lawyers for lease or contract issues; and other people who routinely retain lawyers for business transactions or formations. Paragraph (a) is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from participating in constitutionally protected activities of public or charitable legal-service organizations or bona fide political, social, civic, fraternal, employee or trade organizations whose purposes include providing or recommending legal services to its members or beneficiaries.

[6] A solicitation that contains false or misleading information within the meaning of Rule 7.1, which involves coercion, duress, or harassment within the meaning of Rule 7.3(c)(2), or that involves contact with someone who has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer within the meaning of Rule 7.3(c)(1) is prohibited.

Contact to Establish Prepaid Legal Service Plan

[7] This Rule does not prohibit a lawyer from contacting representatives of organizations or groups that may be interested in establishing a group or prepaid legal plan for their members, insureds, beneficiaries, or other third parties for the purpose of informing such entities of the availability of and details concerning the plan or arrangement which the lawyer or lawyer's firm is willing to offer. This form of communication is not directed to people who are seeking legal services for themselves. Rather, it is usually addressed to an individual acting in a fiduciary capacity seeking a supplier of legal services for others who may, if they choose, become prospective clients of the lawyer. Under these circumstances, the activity which the lawyer undertakes in communicating with such representatives and the type of information transmitted to the individual are functionally similar to and serve the same purpose as advertising permitted under Rule 7.2.

[8] Communications authorized by law or ordered by a court or tribunal include a notice to potential members of a class in class action litigation.

Contact to Enroll Members in Prepaid Legal Service Plan

[9] Paragraph (e) of this Rule permits a lawyer to participate with an organization which uses personal contact to enroll members for its group or prepaid legal service plan, provided that the personal contact is not undertaken by any lawyer who would be a provider of legal services through the plan. The organization must not be owned by or directed (whether as manager or otherwise) by any lawyer or law firm that participates in the plan. For example, paragraph (e) would not permit a lawyer to create an organization controlled directly or indirectly by the lawyer and use the organization for the person-to-person solicitation of legal employment of the lawyer through memberships in the plan or otherwise. The communication permitted by these organizations also must not be directed to a person known to need legal services in a particular matter, but must be designed to inform potential plan members generally of another means of affordable legal services. Lawyers who participate in a legal service plan must reasonably assure that the plan sponsors are in compliance with 27 N.C. Admin. Code 1E.0301 et seq., as well as Rules 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3(c).

History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-23

Adopted by the Supreme Court: July 24, 1997

Amendments Approved by the Supreme Court: March 1, 2003; October 6, 2004; November 16, 2006; August 23, 2007; August 25, 2011; October 2, 2014; September 28, 2017; April 21, 2021

Ethics Opinion Notes

CPR 52. It is proper to notify former clients of changes in the law that could affect their wills.

CPR 104. Attorneys may request lenders and title insurance companies to place them on approved lists.

CPR 191. It is improper for an attorney to belong to a "Tip Club" in which members agree to refer business to each other.

CPR 258. In response to a request, an attorney may submit a bid for legal work to the FHA.

CPR 352. It is not improper for an attorney to inform a client with a personal injury claim that the spouse may also have a claim and that the attorney is willing to handle the claim.

RPC 20. Opinion rules that a lawyer may not use an intermediary to solicit business clients, may not make "cold calls" upon prospective business clients and may not make statements in legitimate communications which are prohibited by Rule 2.1.

RPC 57. Opinion rules that a lawyer may agree to be on a list of attorneys approved to handle all of a lender's title work.

RPC 71. Opinion rules, among other things, that an attorney may not accept legal employment by a Prepaid Legal Service Plan owned by the attorney's wife or another member of the attorney's immediate family, if the Plan will market its services by in-person solicitation.

RPC 98. Opinion construes the term "professional relationship" and explores the circumstances under which solicitation of persons or organizations with whom a lawyer has had business and professional dealings is permissible. Targeted print advertising is also discussed.

RPC 115. Opinion rules that a lawyer may sponsor truthful legal information which is provided by telephone to members of the public.

RPC 146. Opinion rules that a law firm may invite existing clients to a social function hosted by the law firm prior to a bid letting for contracts. Opinion further rules that the law firm may host a social function for nonclients who attend the bid letting as long as the law firm does not solicit employment from nonclients.

RPC 161. Opinion rules that a television commercial for legal services which fails to mention that bankruptcy is the debt relief described in the commercial and which describes results obtained for others is misleading.

RPC 200. Opinion rules that the lawyers remaining with a firm may contact by phone or in person clients whose legal matters were handled exclusively by a lawyer who has left the firm.

RPC 242. Opinion rules that a lawyer may send a letter describing his services to the incorporators of a new business provided the words "This is an advertisement for legal services" are included in the communication.

97 Formal Ethics Opinion 6. Opinion rules that the omission of the lawyer's address from a targeted direct mail letter is a material misrepresentation.

2000 Formal Ethics Opinion 3. Opinion rules a lawyer may respond to an inquiry posted on a web page message board provided there are certain disclosures.

2004 Formal Ethics Opinion 2. Opinion rules that an attorney may not offer promotional merchandise in a targeted direct mail solicitation letter as an inducement to call the attorney's office.

2004 Formal Ethics Opinion 5. Opinion rules that a solicitation letter to prospective members of a class action must contain the words "This is an advertisement for legal services" pursuant to Rule 7.3(c).

2006 Formal Ethics Opinion 4. Opinion rules that a lawyer may not participate in a prepaid legal services plan unless all the conditions for participation are met and participation does not otherwise result in a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

2006 Formal Ethics Opinion 6. Opinion rules that a lawyer may put extraneous statements on the envelope of a solicitation letter provided the statements do not mislead the recipient and the font used for the statements is smaller than the font used for the advertising disclaimer required by Rule 7.3(c).

2006 Formal Ethics Opinion 7. Opinion rules that a lawyer may be a member of a for-profit networking organization provided the lawyer does not distribute business cards and is not required to make referrals to other members.

2007 Formal Ethics Opinion 4. Opinion provides guidance on miscellaneous issues relative to client seminars and solicitation, gifts to clients and others following referrals, distribution of business cards, and client endorsements.

2007 Formal Ethics Opinion 15. Opinion provides clarification of the technical requirements for targeted direct mail letters set forth in Rule 7.3(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

2008 Formal Ethics Opinion 6. Opinion rules that a lawyer may hire a nonlawyer independent contractor to organize and speak at educational seminars so long as the nonlawyer does not give legal advice.

2009 Formal Ethics Opinion 3. Opinion rules that a lawyer has a professional obligation not to encourage or allow a nonlawyer employee to disclose confidences of a previous employer's clients for purposes of solicitation.

2011 Formal Ethics Opinion 8. Opinion provides guidelines for the use of live chat support services on law firm websites.

2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 10. Opinion rules a lawyer may not participate as a network lawyer for a company providing litigation or administrative support services for clients with a particular legal/business problem unless certain conditions are satisfied.

2015 Formal Ethics Opinion 3. Opinion rules that a lawyer may not offer a computer tablet to a prospective client in a direct mail solicitation letter.

2015 Formal Ethics Opinion 7. Opinion rules that the business relationships with health care professionals created by a lawyer previously employed as a health care consultant constitute prior professional relationships within the meaning of Rule 7.3(a) thus permitting the lawyer to directly solicit legal employment by in-person, live telephone, or real-time electronic contact with the health care professionals.

2022 Formal Ethics Opinion 3. Opinion rules that a lawyer may be included in an allied professional’s list of recommended lawyers provided that the professional does not disseminate the lawyer’s name and information in a manner that is prohibited by the Rules of Professional Conduct.

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